General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is upgrading the Army's long-endurance, medium-altitude Gray Eagle drone so it can be a big player in future multi-domain operations.
As an armed unmanned aerial system with a maximum speed of 150 knots, the Gray Eagle is a multipurpose platform that provides capabilities such as reconnaissance, surveillance, intelligence, target acquisition, communications relay and electronic warfare.
The service completed operational testing and began fielding the extended range variant in 2018 and 2019. The service has an Army acquisition objective of 204 aircraft, according to fiscal year 2021 budget documents.
General Atomics, me program's prime contractor, is now upgrading the system so it can counter adversaries in multidomain operations. MDO is an Army warfighting concept meant to set the stage for fights against near-peer adversaries and multiple types of threats. The concept is helping the service shape its modernization efforts and is set to become official doctrine. By 2028, the Army hopes to have a force ready to fight in more contested environments.
"As increased threats arise in Pacific and European theaters, the modernized Gray Eagle ER will provide resiliency and survivability by taking advantage of the latest satellite communications technologies," said Chris Pehrson, the company's vice president of strategic development for Defense Department customers.
To help the service reach this goal, General Atomics is holding a series of multi-domain operations demonstrations to show how the Gray Eagle can be a key player in the process. During a demo in November, the UAS used a Lynx Block 30A long-range synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator, to detect targets up to 46.6 miles away, according to a company news release. Imagery provided by the system also provides precise coordinates to assist long-range precision fires platforms.
Additionally, the company has a plan to control demonstrations using scalable command-and-control software on a laptop, which is expected to eliminate the need for a ground-control station or vehicle. This is "drastically reducing the system's logistical footprint and supporting the Army's vision for interfaces to the aircraft from across the battlefield," the company said.
A second demonstration was held in January and a third is scheduled for June, Pehrson said. The events are being held at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
"The demos are designed to highlight the...